Can you tell the difference between ceramic and porcelain? A lot of people seem to not know the difference between these two.
They do look similar, but there’s a big difference between them. Actually, porcelain is just a type of ceramic, while not all ceramics are porcelain. While both are strong and pretty, porcelain is actually a very refined type of ceramic.
Besides porcelain, there are various types of clay bodies such as earthenware, stoneware and terracotta, which are also ceramics. We will further explain each one of them.
Let’s start with the general term ceramic, which describes anything made of clay mixed with water and earthen elements to shape them into the desired forms. Once shaped, it is fired and usually glazed. All these variables determine the hardness and quality of the end product. That’s why there are various types of ceramics. Get it now?
Terracotta is a type of ceramic and it’s used to make many flower pots, bricks and sculptures. You may also hear the term “terracotta” to describe a color which is a natural brown-orange. It’s a very porous clay to work with, and a coat of glaze is needed to make it waterproof. It is the kind of ceramic fired at the lowest temperatures – some have fired it as low as 600ºC. There’s a famous Terracotta clay army found in China, which you can learn more about here.
Earthenware is the earliest type of pottery and our favourite. Its slightly porous and coarser than stoneware and porcelain and it’s fired at temperatures typically around 1000-1080ºC. For practical and decorative reasons it is usually glazed, thus making it watertight. It’s the main type of ceramic used for decoration, as you can see here in our collection. Also, if you wish to know more about it, click here.
Stoneware is fired at higher temperatures (usually 1150ºC-1300ºC) and because it is inherently non-porous the surface will be watertight. It can be left unglazed that it will still hold water inside. Stoneware is harder, stronger and more durable than earthenware and so is mostly preferred for everyday use, found normally in the kitchen since it can easily go into the oven and such.
Porcelain is fired at high temperatures – above 1250ºC – and like stoneware, its body vitrifies during the firing, so its surface is watertight naturally. The surface is very smooth and the most identifying trait of porcelain is its translucence. Porcelain after firing becomes very translucent, allowing light to show through it. Another identifying trait is sound. If you strike it lightly it will ring with a bell-like sound.